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Little Joe

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Biography

The traditional Tex-Mex style of norteño was fused by Little Joe (born Jose Maria DeLeon Hernandez) with influences of country music, blues, and rock to create the uptempo hybrid known as tejano. Together with his band, Y la Familia Borrachera, Little Joe has enabled his music to reach far beyond the Texas and Mexico borders. In 1992, their album Diez y Seis de Septiembre received a Grammy Award as Best Mexican American Performance.

The seventh of 13 children, Little Joe began playing music in 1953 with his cousin David Coronado's band, David Coronado & the Latinaires. Two years later, he performed his first paid gig with the band at a high-school sock hop in Cameron, Texas. In 1958, Little Joe made his recording debut with the song "Safari," released by Torrero Records in Corpus Christi, Texas. The following year, Little Joe's brother Jesse joined the band on bass and vocals. When Coronado left shortly afterwards, Little Joe assumed leadership of the group. Throughout the early '60s, Little Joe led the band through a series of recordings on small independent labels. He underwent a personal transformation after Jesse died in an automobile accident in 1964. Determined to achieve commercial success, he altered his musical approach to include more rock and blues influences.

In 1968, Little Joe formed two labels of his own: Buena Suerte for recordings in Spanish, and Good Luck for recordings in English. He later added a third label, Leona Records. His musical approach shifted again in 1970. After performing in the San Francisco Bay Area, he became enchanted by "Latinismo" and changed the name of his band again. In 1985, Little Joe y la Familia signed their first major-label recording deal with WEA International. Two years later, Little Joe formed his fourth label — Redneck — and released the double live album 25th Silver Anniversary. After releasing two albums for WEA, Little Joe switched to Sony International, where he remained until 1983, when he launched his fifth label, Tejano Discos. His first release on the label, "Que Paso," earned him his third Grammy nomination. In 1996, Little Joe performed on the Frankie Yankovic album Songs of the Polka King, Vol.1, singing a duet with Yankovic of "Just Because/Si Porque." Little Joe has appeared in two films: Proposition 187, a Deadly Law and Down for the Barrio.

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